Review: The Proposal by Mary Balogh

proposalReviewed by Jen

I absolute adore the premise of this series; so much so that when I jumped in with book three, I decided to go back and check out the backlist with this, book 1. The stories follow six men and one women, connected by tragedy. They are The Survivors Club, and each member is working to heal from a wounded inflicted in the Napoleonic wars… some physical, others mental or emotional.  It is at the group’s annual reunion where our hero and heroine meet.

Hugo is one of the survivors struggling with internal demons.  He survived a mission that killed 300 of his men and when he walked away without a scratch, he went a little crazy. Now, it’s been three years and he is trying to find his place in life. His father has died and now it is time to take his place in society and provide an heir.  He never really expected to find love, though, and he didn’t exactly fall head over heels when he met Gwen.

In all fairness, she wasn’t looking for love either on the day she twisted her ankle on the beach. A widow’s life suited her just fine.  And the giant of a man who carried her off the sand wasn’t exactly suave. He was actually downright rude. But circumstances forced her to convalesce with her sprain for days at the site of his club gathering.  It didn’t take long for an attraction to spring up and from there, a reluctant relationship was born.

I have mixed feelings about book. I liked it more than not, but I had some issues. The first is in the way Hugo treats Gwen. I know that the man has problems, but he is so curt with her, I struggled at times to figure out why she would want him. Yes, he is sexy and we learn he is a war hero, but he barely has a kind word for Gwen… ever.  He throws her class in her face. He judges her. He insults her. And I understand why he feels the way he does, but I don’t know if physical attraction would really be enough to make a self-respecting woman be ok with it.  It’s great that Gwen can laugh at herself and that she has thick skin, but Hugo walked a fine like with likeability for me throughout more than half of the book.

My other issue: the story moves slowly at times. The only things standing in the way of a romance between Gwen and Hugo are… Gwen and Hugo.  Without an external conflict, something felt missing.

Once you get past his utter inability to speak without a rough edge, Hugo is a good guy. He is tormented because of his innate gentleness that was forcibly set aside by the violence of war.  He is loyal. He is sexy. And it’s not a great leap to figure out why Gwen wants a physical relationship with him.  You also see evidence of the good man he tries to hide by the way he treats his sister and step-mother, and even in his inability to reconcile himself with his reputation as a hero.

Gwen is slightly less developed, but has a decent backstory with her late mentally ill husband.  She’s almost a little too perfect at times, but I guess that’s the kind of woman necessary to laugh at some of the stuff Hugo says.

Overall though, I liked it fairly well, though I liked The Escape better.  I’m going to keep going with the series to see what the future holds for the other survivors.

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Proposal
by Mary Balogh
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Random House

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